Baldock in 1900
from "Baldock Voices", edited by Maureen Maddren, Egon Publishing 1991
Baldock in 1900 was a small country town of just over 2000 inhabitants. It wasn’t a wealthy place although there were a number of large houses whose owners each kept a considerable staff of servants. There were farms in the town and it wasn’t unusual to meet cows in the street going to or from milking, or to one of the many slaughter-houses. The needs of everyday living were well-catered for by a variety of shops, and errand boys would deliver to the doorstep, if required. The town was virtually self-sufficient and in the summer it was a beautiful place to be, with large trees lining the high street and plenty of leafy lanes to walk down on a Sunday evening. This then was the town n the years up to and including the First World War.
The High Street hasn’t altered hardly a bit since the First World War. There were three cottages near William Sale’s farm at the top end of two; they’ve gone and there are flats there now. I knew nearly all the houses and occupants. I was a paperboy up that way. Dr Day lived in the Gates. My old dad worked on the brewery and he was a bit on the stout side and he weren’t well so he goes over to old Dr Day – hooked-nose man he was – and he went in and said, “I’m a bit out of sorts, Doctor.”
So the Doctor says, “Well you know your trouble, don’t you?”
“No I don’t,” says me dad, “or else I shouldn’t have come “
So he says, “That much Simpsons that’s your trouble.” (Dr Day was a teetotaller). So Dad says, “Well, if I didn’t think you wan’t going to tell me anything else, I shouldn’t have come.”
Veasey, the solicitor, lived in Pepper Court. At the White Lion there was a white lion laying on a platform at the front of the pub (on the roof) – a wooden one. There was a pub in Jackson Street. The Bushell and Strike. In those days we had no water laid on, no gas no electric light. We used to go to bed with a candle, there was a oil lamp on the table and we had a pump in the yard that supplied three cottages. We used to gave to put a bucket of water down the toilet. Fortunately we were on the sewer which was a blessing in those days.
The town was lit by gas, there was a street lamp near where we played in Orchard Road and there was a man employed to go round and put the lamps on and then go round late at night to put them out. I got into trouble on night – my dad said “you’ve been teaching Mr Dilley.” You know what kids are – we used to call him “cock’orny” and anny him and he told his brother and his brother told me dad. He used to go round every night with a long pole and pull the chain and light the lamp.